As you are digesting the news that you are going to have to work with a
Specialist and enter the journey of Infertility diagnosis and treatment,
it will be helpful to know where you can go to get the "right"
support. Since this is a personal and private process, most people choose
to deal with their feelings on their own. As time progresses, most find
that the journey becomes challenging due to the emotional, financial and
physical/medical demands. ACRM offers this group free of charge to all
patients no matter where you are in your journey. You can come one time,
you can come alone or with your husband, partner. Your partner can come
alone if you can’t make it. You can bring your mother. The possibilities
are open… You do not have to make a reservation, just come! The
only requirement is that you are on this journey of treatment and want support!
Let me tell you about the advantages of a support group.
According to Resolve, the National Organization for infertility support,
one of the most important benefits of participating in a support group
is the “decreased sense of isolation.” This is a true statement
and this theme comes up in every support group experience that I have
witnessed. Within the context of this safe and confidential environment,
individuals and couples are able and willing to share their feelings of
anger, depression, guilt and shame, anxiety and fear. These feelings cannot
easily be shared in the outside world as many family members and friends
do not have any idea of a clue about what this experience feels like.
In a support group, participants are free to share what they are feeling
with intensity, without being given the feedback and advice that usually
falls short of the mark, may feel admonishing and corrective. These well-meaning,
but off base remarks can contribute to the experience of the person’s
sense of isolation and shame. Also, for those patients that do have supportive
family and friends, they worry about “overburdening” their
loved ones, especially if their journey is of long duration. The group
offers a place to process for as long as is helpful.
In the group, we short circuit the viscous cycle of guilt, shame and blame.
In the group, many people are surprised to learn that their resistance
to be social, attend baby showers and be happy for friends and family
that are announcing pregnancies are Normal. This sense of being understood
can help members create a special bond and identity. By sharing feelings,
accomplishments, losses, humor known only to those experiencing infertility
treatment, members can develop strong emotional ties to one another. It
is not uncommon to find individuals and couples exchanging phone numbers
after a group session.
In the group we focus on the expression of authentic feelings. This may
seem confusing to those outside of the rooms. We examine the stages of
grief for the members: shock, disbelief, denial, bargaining, anger/rage,
sadness/depression and acceptance. Patients can identify where they are
in the process and understand better, why these feelings are happening.
We cover the issue of being “triggered” and how this feels
and put coping mechanisms in place. This understanding helps the healing
process as you don’t get bogged down in shame and regrets if you
have acted in an angry or frustrated way. This support and understanding
can help the patient contain and not “leak out” at others
including family, work colleagues and the staff.
We address the differences about how men and women deal with the feelings
involved during this journey and normalize for each person how they are
coping or not coping. We allow for these differences and help each person
maximize how they are able to be helpful. It is OK not to be able to be
supportive at a time your partner is hurting, as you may be overwhelmed
yourself. Healthy, open and authentic communication is essential and we
cover the best way to approach this. For example, we ask partners to place
themselves on “advice-giving” restriction. We know partners
want to "fix" the problem and since feelings can’t be
“fixed”, partners are offered another way to be supportive.
We give them sentences to try and this usually works much better. We normalize
that this journey can temporarily create marital or relational problems
and assure participants that they can reconnect in an even stronger way
as they cope with this process as a strong and informed “team.”
We cover many coping skills that can be used at this time. We focus on
soothing the decreased self-esteem and loss of control feelings and experiences
and work towards an awareness of how they can be “in charge”
during this time. New ideas of coping, assertiveness training skills and
communication ideas are shared and improvements are made. Members share
what they have tried and how they feel it has worked or not worked. The
members also share about other life stresses that they are experiencing
during this journey including work stress, financial problems, family
of origin worries etc.
The group works whether you come alone, with your spouse/partner or even
bring another support person such as a parent or close friend. The atmosphere
is open and welcoming to all that are experiencing the stress involved
in this journey. Feelings are encouraged and no one is made to feel “wrong”.
Please consider coming. ACRM’s weekly support group for patients
meets every Wednesday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in our Atlanta –
Perimeter office. This experience can be helpful whether you attend once
or ongoing. If you have questions please feel free to contact us at 678.841.1089.